ANN ROBSON: Canadian Health Care Gets Bum Rap
It's a well-known fact that eyewitnesses seldom agree about the details of an accident scene. Thus it is with observations on the Canadian health care system.
The experiences of a few people in a small geographic area should not be used to generalize about the system as a whole. That would be akin to basing our opinion on what happens in one hospital.
When the Canadian health-care system into which I was born, and under which I lived for almost 30 years, is used as a battering ram against socialized medicine, I get angry. Anecdotal evidence from a few individuals does not make a convincing case. And reform does not mean "socialized."
I am sure that experiences expressed in recent columns and letters probably did happen. But if we cast a wide net to the general population here in the United States, I feel certain we would hear similar and even more horrifying experiences.
The Canadian system is not perfect. According to statistics from the World Health Organization, Canada's health-care system ranked 30th in a list of 117 countries examined. The United States ranked 37th. On a per-capita expenditure for health care, Canada ranked 10th. The United States led the pack.
That is not good news: We pay the most for health care and yet rank 37th in the world. Canada does considerably better with a ranking of 10th in expenditure for a return of 35th overall ranking.
Opponents of health-care reform are using scare tactics to win support for their cause. They do not see that they are helping pad the pockets of insurance and pharmaceutical firms, which must accept the lion's share of responsibility for the mess in which we find ourselves.
We have allowed insurance companies to dictate what services we may or may not receive and the timetable in which these services must be delivered. For example, I receive a monthly B-12 shot. It is not "monthly," however; it is "one month plus a day" in order that insurance will cover the fee. This is just one minuscule rule handed down from above, covering one of thousands of procedures for millions of people.
I am grateful for Medicare and my other health insurance provider until the mountain of paperwork comes in the mail listing each tiny detail of what was done unto me. That would be an excellent place to start reform -- get rid of the paperwork.
I am grateful for the treatment and service we enjoy here in Moore County. Still, it is not a perfect system either.
If the Canadian system is so bad, why do many "snowbirds" spend the winter months in the Southern parts of the United States, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain but race back to their Canadian homes within six months of leaving? They do it for the free medical care to which they feel entitled. They are proud to tell non-Canadians what a great deal they have: free medical care. They plan regular medical care around their time in Canada.
If the Canadian system is so bad, why would thousands of U.S. citizens make routine trips to border cities to stock up on prescription drugs. They do it to save money.
Yes, sometimes the tide is reversed and Canadians will come to American doctors, clinics or hospitals to expedite care, providing they can afford to do so. Waiting for some procedures in Canada may take months if the matter is not considered an emergency.
Yet they must be doing something right. According to the current CIA World Factbook, the average life expectancy for a person born in Canada today is 80.34 years, broken down to 83.96 years for women and 76.98 years for men. That earns Canada a rank of 10.
A person born at the same time in the United States can expect to live 78.06 years, 80.97 for women, 75.15 for men, for a world ranking of 45.
We have two vastly different health-care systems functioning reasonably well most of the time. If we could take the best from each, we might have an improved system for both.
Ann Robson lives in Whispering Pines.
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